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Alonzo and Stella   A Prairie Wedding: Alonzo and Stella, October 21 1906, by Vernon F. Turner

"Everyone was dressed in their 'Sunday Best'. The Bride wore a changeable silk dress, sort of lavender like, which was trimmed with small tucks and wide cream lace. She told me that her brother, Claude, had bought the material and had given it to her as a present. Everyone gathered in the front room. Twelve year old sister Anna played the wedding march on the organ. Alonzo and Stella stood in front of the double window while the preacher conducted the Wedding Ceremony. Later, there was 'A feast for a king'. Little brother, Roy, had enjoyed too much of the goodies and had a real bad 'Tummy ache'. The next day there were icycles 5 or 6 feet long hanging from the eves." [1]

     This description of the wedding of Alonzo Grant Turner and Stella Grace Thompson, was written by Sylvia Beckley, the sister of the groom, who as a girl of 14, had taken the evening train from Lincoln to attend this western Kansas wedding. The date was October 21, 1906, and the setting was the sod house of Robert and Susan Nora (Harclerode) Thompson, the parents of the bride.

     This was not the beginning of the story, nor was it the end. Alonzo and Stella would spend the next 70 plus years together, raise four children, and leave a legacy that will live far beyond their days on earth. This is the record of one chapter in the story of that life together.

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     On April 12, 1901, Martha Brooks Turner died, leaving four children, Alonzo, 15; Guy, 12; Floyd, 11; and Sylvia, 8. The Turner children came from sturdy pioneer stock. Their father, Asher Hiatt Turner, had deserted his family, years before, and divorced Mattie, as she was called, in 1896. [2] Asher, was born in 1851 in Clinton Co., Ohio, and was the only son, among eight children of Albert Turner and Elizabeth Hiatt. [6] He was the Great-Grandson of a Quaker Patriarch [7] , Revolutionary War Patriot [8] and a Southern slave owner [9].

     Their mother, Martha Florence Brooks, was the third daughter of Henry Russell Brooks and Rachel Brooks, was the great-great-granddaughter of two Revolutionary War soldiers. [10] She was born in Bartholomew Co., Indiana, although the family originally came from Greene County, Pennsylvania. The family had moved west over a period of several years, stopping in Nebraska in addition to the time in Indiana, before settling in Lincoln Co., Kansas. Henry Russell Brooks was a hard working man, as indicated by how often he "proved up" a number of homesteads, including a Timber Claim, in 1899. [11]

     Asher Turner met Martha Brooks during a visit to his sister, Mary Ellen and her husband Lorenzo Kent [3] and they were married at her father's home, May 29, 1882. [6] After losing three infants, Alonzo Grant Turner was born July 9, 1885. [6]

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     When his father left, Alonzo, age 9, had quit school, to work for local farmers to help his mother keep bread on the table. Later he describes how he felt upon the death of his mother. "I was on my own, literally on my own." [3] He needed to earn more money, because he felt responsible for his younger siblings. So, at the age of 15 he left the farm where he was working and went to work as a section hand for the Union Pacific Railroad for the going wage of $1.25 per 10-hour day. The other three went to live with their Grandmother and Grandfather Brooks. However less than a year later, on February 14, 1902, Grandfather Brooks died. For some reason, perhaps poor health, Grandmother Brooks was unable to care for the children, so the children, including Alonzo, were made wards of the court, and a neighbor, H. W. Herren, was appointed as guardian. [4] In that time, guardians only had a fiduciary responsibility, and had no responsibility for the actual care of the children. The mother had left a small inheritance and Herren was appointed to "manage" it until he made distribution to each of the Turner children upon reaching their 18th birthdays. Mr. Herren's [5] meticulous records are a tribute to the mores of the time - honesty in all things.

     Alonzo was a big strapping young man, standing over six feet tall, and by the time that he was eighteen he was the foreman of his section gang. He also must have been a "fine specimen of a man" as well, because the story is told that once Stella saw him without his shirt, that it "was all over". Alonzo was also possessor of the Turner wit. He had a kind of stern look about him, and when he spoke, with that very deep, authoritative voice, others paid attention. He chose his words carefully, as if they were rationed, and one usually remembered what he had to say. In 1965, he traveled to California to see his first great-grandchild Turner. He already had a number of great-grandchildren, but this was the first that would carry the Turner name. He commented, "The Greats come along a lot faster than your own kids do because you have so many more women working on the job"

     He was also a perfectionist. His tool shed was an example of this, with a place for every tool, and they were never out of place. He was handy with his hand, and once obtained a patent for a wall mounted device that would poke a hole in a can of evaporated milk. As the oldest child, with a largely absentee father, he developed a strong sense of responsibility, especially when it came to his young brothers and sister were concerned. He continued to provide some financial support to them even when they were old enough to be on their own. When younger brother Floyd was in medical school, he received some money from Alonzo on a regular basis.

     His relationship with his own father was rocky at best. He never spoke ill of him, but didn't have much to say that was very positive either. His father had once reminded him that it cost $5 for the doctor when he was born. When he started working for the railroad, he sent his father $5 per month for a number of years, even after he was married, He didn't want to feel obligated to him in any way. On the other hand, he seemed to want his father's approval, as can be seen in a letter that he wrote to his father on April 16, 1900, "I received your photograph some time ago but as I wrote last I was waiting for you to write." Years later, others said that he was always a little bitter that Asher had missed Martha's funeral. When the subject would come up, Alonzo would point out that he had paid for his mother's funeral cards himself, "with his own money."

     The railroad transferred him from Lincoln, Kansas, which is located in the north central part of the state, to a number of locations. One of those places was Colby, Thomas Co., located in the western end of the state.

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     Stella picks up the story here. She was also from the "melting pot" that give Americans their character. Her father, Robert Samuel Thompson, was the youngest child of Irish immigrants, Samuel Thompson and Trophena Wright. He was a deeply religious man, as noted by the way that he had crossed out the word "swear" on the affidavit submitted to support his Homestead Claim, dated Sept. 18, 1901, and substituted the word "affirm". [12a] Her mother, Susan Nora Harclerode, was one of eleven children of Jacob Harclerode and Anna Mary Diehl. The Harclerodes and the Diehls, had immigrated to the new world, in the early 1700's, settling first, in Louden Co., Virginia, and then to Bedford Co., Pennsylvania, where Jacob and Anna Mary were married. Stella says that the Harclerodes had moved west "after the war" -- the Civil War. They settled first in Lafayette, Co., Missouri, and eventually moving further west to Elsmore, and then, to Colby, Kansas. Those who knew her, fondly remember how she would carve the letter "N", in the center of her pies.

     Stella said that her parents met when her father went to work on the Harclerode farm [in Pennsylvania], and eventually married the "farmer's daughter" on November 23, 1884. She had no idea, however, what brought him to that particular farm. [16] Robert took his new bride to Allen County, Kansas; Stella, the oldest of five children, was born in Elsmore. Later, the Thompson family moved to Thomas County, as did the senior Harclerodes, though there is no evidence that Jacob and Anna Mary ever lived in Allen County.

     Stella was unlike Alonzo in many ways. She favored her Irish heritage, in that she was much more light-hearted then her husband, and had an infectious laugh. She was the first to consider going to a neighborhood party. She was musical, encouraging her children to develop any musical talent that they had. And to her credit, each did. Her daughter, Ruth, the child with perhaps the greatest talent, studied music, and performed with leading community orchestras, for example, as the soprano soloist in Handel's Messiah, directing various church choirs, and teaching music in school. Stella's three sons also enjoyed a lifelong love of musical activities, ranging from playing the flute in a family ensemble, to singing in quartets, to directing church choirs, to playing the saxophone.

     Stella also had her serious side. She was very compassionate, especially where her extended family was concerned. She traveled great distances to be with her sisters while they were dying from cancer. She was also a source of spiritual strength, perhaps getting that strength from her father, who she remembers walking with her to Sunday School, when she was just a little girl. [3] Both Alonzo and Stella were members of the Church of the Brethren, which was the faith of Stella's mother, Susan Nora Harclerode.

     She tells about the home that she lived in. [3] It was a two-room sod home "with a wood floor, plaster and wallpaper, and a shingled roof". [12b] Because of these features, it was considered to be one of the finer sod houses in the community. Most sod homes had a dirt floor with a braided rug covering.

     Many years later, in an interview, [3] Stella recounted how she "met her present husband". She said that Alonzo and his little brother, Floyd, came around looking for a place to board. Stella's mother had been sick that year, and she asked Stella what she thought. Stella recommend that they go see a neighbor. It turned out that the neighbor had tuberculosis so Alonzo and his brother came back, and the Thompsons took them in.

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envelope addressed to Stella

     On October 12, 1905, Alonzo is anticipating marriage as noted in a letter to Stella, from Union, Colorado. [13]

Miss Stella Thompson
     Colby, Kan.
 My Dearest Stella:!
     Your very ---- letter was received and read with pleasure this morning, and I will now do my best to answer it. We have it handier here to get & receive letters than we did at Balzac. There is a post office in the depot here. It is handier for board too. I board at the depot. Maybe you think I was sorry to quit batching but I don't think so.
     " . . . . .Have you got your ring yet and is it too small? If it is just keep it till I see you again. I am going to go into Denver the first Sunday the gang doesn't work and I will get one that I know will fit.
     ". . . . .I don't know when I can get 'Home' but not for a month at least. It seems like it has been a year since I was there and the thought of its being a month & maybe more seems twice that long. Tell the folks at home hello for me when you go down next Friday.

          Hoping for a long and early answer I remain,
Yours sincerely

     Alonzo and Stella's relationship grew. On April 13, 1906, about six months before their wedding day, he writes from Deuel, Colorado, [14]

"Miss Stella Thompson,
     Oakley, Kan.
My Dearest Stella:
     Your very welcome and always much enjoyed letter was received a short time ago and I am now taking pleasure in trying to answer it.
     You spoke of having company Sunday. It will be alright for Jessie & Joyce to come to see you but the other one you said that came wouldn't be a very good friend of mine I'm afraid. And you said you had a fellow who mailed my last letter. I guess I had better do as you suggested a while back,- get work closer 'home' (or --) HaHa."

     Alonzo took his upcoming responsibility of taking a wife and setting up a new household very seriously. He sent the following letter on August 18, 1906:[15]

"Montgomery Ward & Co.
Kansas City, MO

Dear Sirs:
     Please ship the following in one freight shipment to me at Weldon, Colo. as per your agreement of June 5th. I will again state that I am an employee of the U.P.R.R. and authority has been furnished the agent at Kansas City to bill free of charge 3,000 lbs. of H/H goods to my address, if shipped in one shipment from Kansas City.
     I here with enclosed a bank draft of $205.89 and post office order of $24.17 total $230.06.

     Yours truly,
     /s/ A. G. Turner"

     What followed was five typed double-spaced pages of everything from 1 lb. each of black pepper, Jamaica Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, sage, and nutmeg (all for .25 per pound), furniture (1 Comfort couch, Green Tufted $6.70), curtains (3 white lace curtains - .85 each), fabric (2 yards, white linen - .40 per yard), books (20 books, listed alphabetical for $4.50. Titles include Black Beauty, Hiawatha, Swiss Family Robinson and Vicar of Wakefield.), a steel range ($19.50), Windsor Sewing Machine ($16.35), 8 1/2 dozen cans of assorted fruits and vegetables, just to name a few of the items. It was clear that Stella had reviewed the list, because there are instances where she thought that he was a little generous. For example, he had originally listed 3 yard of the white linen, but Stella had marked it down to 2 yards.

salad plate given as wedding gift
Salad Plate (wedding gift)

     Finally the day of the wedding was at hand. Sylvia wrote 75 years later, "The train came about 6 p.m. and headed west. It was Oct. 20, 1906. After traveling for two or three hours, we realized that the first blizzard of the season was starting. The farther west we went, the worse the storm became, and hours later, when we were finally nearing our destination, the conductor told me he would not let me off the train, as Spica was just a side-track. I said to him 'Oh, my brother would be there to meet me'. The train came to a halt and there was my brother Alonzo, with a lighted lantern.

     "Alonzo and I climbed into the buggy and started for the Thompson farm. It was about a half-mile away. The wind kept blowing out the lantern and it was very cold, but we didn't get lost so after a while we reached the house. Inside the house it was warm and comfortable.

     "The large farm kitchen was cozy and there was Stella, Alonzo's beloved, waiting to greet me. I thought that she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen, with her dark hair, lovely fair skin and blue, blue eyes. She was wearing a dark red dress, and the glow of her beaming smile lighted up her face so beautifully -- I shall never forget it. That picture and the warmth of the love expressed will go with me throughout eternity." [1]

     Years later, Stella reflected, "I've never regretted my marriage. I've thought on how silly it was that I didn't keep him in the first place." [3]

     Thus began a journey that would continue on for over 70 years.

     And what about little brother Floyd? He married Stella's younger sister, Anna, some nine years later.

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(1) "The Wedding of Alonzo and Stella", unpublished manuscript by Sylvia Turner Beckley. October 28, 1981.
(2) Turner vs. Turner. District Court Record No. 2,029, Lincoln Co., Kansas - filed April 23, 1896. Entered in Journal G, page 184.
(3) Recorded Interview of Alonzo and Stella Turner, by Velma Turner Robinson, niece, recorded by Herman Robinson at their home in Lafayette, Calif. on August 7, 1965.
(4) Guardianship Records, Probate Court, Lincoln Co., Kansas. Various dates from May 24, 1902 to August 12, 1912. Recorded in Book A, page 106-107; Book A, page 234; Book D, page 151; Book D, 194; Book E, page 184; Book E, page 253; and Book F, page 170.

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(5) [Author's Note:] Henry W. Herren lived on the farm across the road from H. R. Brooks. He actually purchased 40 acres from Brooks in October, 1899. In addition he was Clerk of the Dew Drop School District No. 29, where the Turner children went to school. The Herrens also had a son named Lawrence, four years younger than Alonzo, which suggests that this was the basis for the name that Alonzo and Stella gave to their first born.
(6) Family Data. Albert Turner Family Bible, The Complete Domestic Bible, Hubbard Bros., 1873. The original owned in 1998 by Vernon F. Turner (673 College Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025) The Albert Turner Family Bible passed down from Albert to his son, Asher, to his son, Alonzo, to his son, Lawrence, to his son, Vernon F. Turner.
(7) Christopher Hiatt, Jr. born in Guilford Co., North Carolina, was a descendant of John Hiett, Quaker immigrant. His pedigree chart includes such Quaker surnames as Hunt, Beals, Bowater and Clayton. His wife, Jermina Hunt, also born in Guilford Co. The family moved to Clinton Co., Ohio and settled near Martinsville in 1813. Christopher and Jermina raised Elizabeth after her parents died.
(8) George Hackworth, DAR Patriot Index, page 292. Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, compiler, Revolutionary War Records, Volume I, Virginia, (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967) 245.

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(9) Elijah Turner, Sr. will (1820), Book 5, page 231, County Clerks office, Bedford Co., Virginia.
(10) Col. William Crawford, (of Washington Co.) was the son of an early settler in what is now Greene Co., Pennsylvania, Scotsman John Crawford and Mary MacConnell. He married Alice Kennedy in 1767. Their second child, Elizabeth married Henry Russel, the son of Lewes, Delaware, soldier Emanual Russel and Esther Heavelo. Crawford was commissioned a Lt. Col. in 1779.
(11) Patent Record, Timber Culture Certificate No. 346, recorded Vol. 9, page 182. Selina, Kansas, Land Office.
(12a) Homestead Application No. 25679, Wa-Keeney, Kansas Land Office, September, 18, 1901. Final Proof Certificate No. 8474, Colby, Kansas Land Office, Recording , Recorded, Vol. 668, page 331.
(12b) The Testimony of Claimant of Homestead Certificate No. 8474 sheds light on Stella's recollection of the "two-room sod house." In answering Question 4, regarding the status of a house on the property in question, Robert Thompson stated. "There was a house on the place when I entered the land. I have added 3 rooms, at different times. Sod house part of it shingle roof, rooms from 12 x 16 to 16 x 16."

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(13) Letter from Alonzo Turner, Union, Colorado to Stella Thompson, Colby Kansas, October 12, 1905. Original owned in 1998 by Jerry Turner, Ottis Orchard, Washington.
(14) Letter from Alonzo Turner, Deuel, Colorado to Stella Thompson, Colby Kansas, April 13, 1906. Original owned in 1998 by Jerry Turner, Ottis Orchard, Washington.
(15) Letter from Alonzo Turner, Deuel, Colorado to Montgomery Ward & Co., Kansas City, Missouri, August 18, 1906. Carbon copy of original letter owned by Ruth Turner Bowers, 850 Webster St. Palo Alto, California.
(16) The 1870 census, for Elsmore Twp, Allen Co., Kansas, listed the family of Jacob Harclerode's brother, Adam Harclerode. Samuel Thompson's family was shown the 1875 State census, also in Elsmore Twp Allen Co., which could account for the connection.

Copyright 1999 Vernon F. Turner, Menlo Park, California -- All rights reserved.

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